Emotional Vampires

Isn’t it funny how a therapist can repeat the same thing over and over again over a period several months (or in my case years) and although you understand what they are saying, agree with it wholeheartedly, you don’t really do anything about it? It’s like you get what they are saying, on some level, but don’t then go on to apply it to your life because the way things are now is the way things have always been and you are used to it: ‘it’s not all that bad’.

And then, one day, after treading the same ground again in session, albeit perhaps talking (complaining) about another relationship or area of your life, and about how exhausted and drained you feel, you receive the same response you and actually ‘hear’ what the therapist is saying. You finally take it in, absorb it, and start considering how to make changes based on the information that you have always known deep inside but have been reluctant to do anything with for fear of, what – rejection, upsetting someone?

What on earth am I talking about? (Honestly, after that convoluted mess I’m not even sure now!!) Well, it’s about being mindful of ‘what goes out’ and ‘putting in boundaries to protect yourself’.

My therapist ALWAYS tells me that ‘too much goes out and not enough comes in’ so far as my life goes. I have lots of things plugged in that drain my energy and very little that recharges or replenishes the battery. She is right about that. And sure, on some level this is adult life isn’t it? You grow up, take on responsibilities: work, family life, and friendships all require energy. Sometimes these things seem to take a lot of what you have to offer and both your physical and emotional energy gets drained.

There are some things that you can’t do much about; the house is always going to need cleaning and clothes need washing etc. That’s a bore and unless there’s a magic fairy about to come into my life I have to accept that there are some chores that just have to get done and take a bit of energy. That’s fine.

I also know that often I don’t help myself and I frequently add more and more draining things into my life at the very time I need to be unplugging them. Like, let’s face it, Easter was a complete fucking mess wasn’t it? Not eating and heading down the path of full blown anorexia wasn’t exactly replenishing or rejuvenating. I can’t beat myself up about it. It was what I felt I had to do at the time and is a well-worn coping strategy. It’s not ideal but it’s ok right now. I have found some balance with food and exercise again. That’s not really what I am talking about, though. I absolutely do need to work on my negative coping strategies but there is another area of my life where I can unplug a lot of the ‘drain’.

There are things in life that are unavoidable that drain you but there are some things that ARE TOTALLY AVOIDABLE if you just put in some boundaries about what you are prepared to accept and tolerate… and we all know how big a fan I am of that word! (has my therapy actually worn a path in my brain where boundaries are seen as a good thing…actually yes!).

The idea is that on balance, work, family, and friendships actually give you something back too! No shit Sherlock! When you need someone they’ll be there for you in the way you have been there for them. Relationships are about reciprocity. It’s not fair to be the one that is always taking just as it is not fair to expect someone else to always be the one that gives.

I think this is an especially sore spot for many of us that over the years have sacrificed and hidden our own needs from our narcissistic mothers in order to survive our childhoods. We are so used to giving and listening, being amenable… and being ‘used’ that it can take quite some time to realise that this is not the blueprint for relationships. It doesn’t have to be like this. We should expect for our needs to be met in relationships too… not plain ignored!

Actually, I was whinging on about something at the end of Monday’s therapy session as a bit of an afterthought and suggested that a person in my life was an emotional vampire and I was beginning to really resent it. I don’t know where that came from but it was exactly what I was thinking! Then I said to my therapist ‘I don’t know how you do this job because it must be like being sucked dry all the time’.

But then I remembered some things that are sometimes really difficult for those of us that struggle with ‘the authenticity of the therapeutic relationship’ and they are 1) she is not my friend (I know that!) and 2) ‘SHE GETS PAID’ to do what she does. That is the fair exchange in the relationship. That’s where the balance is restored (to an extent) and how her need gets met.

It’s not always easy when those upset teen parts start chiming in about how ‘the relationship isn’t real because if we stop paying the relationship ends’ but actually that is completely how it should be, we pay our therapists to listen to us because it is not an equal relationship. They keep their needs out of the space so that we can get what we need. That doesn’t come for free. The care absolutely does come free. The relationship is real. It’s different in other relationships. The currency we exchange is our time and willingness to listen to the other. It is not a one way street.

It’s funny because since Monday, and finally hearing what my therapist has been saying for a long time about being allowed to put my needs first and not having to please others (especially those that give nothing back), I am feeling pretty pissed off! Like fully annoyed! Not with her, but with myself for allowing people to take the piss for such a long time. Like seriously, why have I been so willing to put the needs of others first often at the expense of my own emotional wellbeing?

This week was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back (or the event that made me draw a line in the sand!). Another person has started unreservedly dumping their shit on me, unfiltered, with no regard for what I am going through. It happens quite a lot! But this week something shifted and I was like, ‘be a bit sensitive; please don’t talk to me about X when you know that I am struggling with Y and at least acknowledge that you are writing to an actual person!!’

This is one of the dangers of Blogland, I think. Whilst, for the most part, us bloggers are really very supportive because we try and build up a sense of being there for one another via comments or whatever – sometimes people just come out of nowhere and flood your inbox don’t they? I know I am not alone in this.

I guess, maybe, it’s because we write so openly and so people feel like they know us and identify with us. I guess maybe there’s a part of them that unconsciously thinks that because they have read all about us and our woes that must open up a space for them to unload on us. I sort of get it. The thing is, people have a choice whether to click onto this page, to follow, and to read. No one is asking you to do that. When I open my emails I have no idea what’s going to be there.

The other important thing to note here is this: I am not a therapist and whilst I absolutely understand how agonising it can be in therapy I am not here just to absorb your emotional angst outside your sessions. I can’t do that. I have enough of my own!!! I absolutely can be here as a listening ear but if you want to engage with me then hey, remember I am not just your blank screen! My inbox is not your journal space. And the person that writes this blog has a shit tonne going on!!

I do want to make it clear that I have made some amazing friends via my blog that I speak with daily, and so this is by no means directed at everyone. It is possible to forge meaningful and reciprocal relationships here and I am open to that! BUT basically, the place I have arrived at this week is this (with the help of my T and those blogger friends):

I am not some receptacle for another person’s emotional shit. I need to protect myself from burn out.

Great Mantra right?!

I’m not suddenly going to become some unempathic, hard-hearted, arse hole – far from it! But what I am going to consciously start doing in my life is realising that I can make boundaries around what I am prepared to accept from others, look at what I’m giving out, and let some relationships go that aren’t giving me anything back. I need to look after myself so that I can continue to give to those that actually deserve my care. I want to spread myself more thickly on those I love! And actually, I want some energy left over to love myself….

LOVE MYSELF!!

Did I just say that?!! Eeek!

*Do you know what is really rubbish? Is that I have just written a post about maintaining my personal boundaries and emotionally protecting myself and there is a part of me that feels like there will be some backlash to the post. Like ‘Don’t write a blog if you don’t want people to contact you’…FFS!!!!

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Author: rubberbandsandchewinggum

Mid-thirties. Mum of two. Procrastinator. Therapy and mental health blogger.

28 thoughts on “Emotional Vampires”

  1. This is probably one of the worst things about blogging and one of many things that makes me (and others) step far away from the whole thing. But this post is genius. And anyone who wants to get at you for writing it is a person who has no concept of boundaries and thinks it’s perfectly OK to endlessly dump their crap on you and they shouldn’t face consequences for it… let’s face it, we’ve all met them! Good on you, rubberbands. Good. On You. This is really healthy to read and I think being able to implement these boundaries (this is something I too have been playing around with the past couple of months!) will really help you. So yeah. Awesome!

    Please accept my cosignature to this post 😂💛

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Argh that’s tough! Good on you for looking out for yourself though. Boundaries are so difficult, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. I wouldn’t dream of doing that to a fellow blogger! It sounds like this person is very desperate – if you know what I mean! 😂 You are right, we can empathise with each other but not save each other. I have only used the contact thing once to check if someone who had gone quiet was okay. It was ignored with no response so I haven’t bothered since. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. This supportive interaction is great. I really value it. I love the fact that we try and validate one another and make sure people know they’re not alone. What’s happened in my email this week has been too much. It hit me on a sore day when real life was whooping my ass too! Hope you’re doing ok! X

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  3. I think it’s not only valid but also important to set this kinds of boundaries. I find it so interesting how we can grasp various therapy concepts intellectually, but it can take quite a while for them to sink in and really be internalized.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this line: I am not just your blank screen!
    Fortunately, I’ve not had to experience an influx of messages (granted my inbox is divided into three boxes, one I never check, so I could be missing things) but it sounds like this is incredibly draining. You definitely don’t deserve having to act as someone else’s blank screen. I mean, that’s why we have therapists. Granted, I get how friendships are needed, too, but one thing I learned in social psych that always stuck with me was that relationships of any sort only work if there is equanimity. If you’re putting everything in and getting nothing back there isn’t any reason for you to keep engaging. Unfortunately, for the person asking for so much, this is probably a pattern for them. They’re probably so desperately seeking connection that their behavior is actually severing connections and the cycle continues with new person after new person. Maybe by being there but asserting firm, healthy boundaries, you can both experience something new.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yep. I agree with everything you said. To be honest I can’t even be bothered to try and cultivate anything. This situation is very different to what I’ve experienced previously so far as being messaged goes. I’m pleased if my blog helps people feel less alone, and I’m happy that people feel able to share with me within reason- but equally I’m not just the extra sounding board. It’s all about give and take – and I have zero intention of actively engaging in a relationship that wants everything from me. I feel like a grumpy moaner 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good for you. This is such a hard place to get to; I am certainly still struggling with it. I think that what you’ll reap from this will absolutely be worth putting up the boundaries. Especially here in Blogland where the lines in these relationships can be blurred because of the whole online thing. It can be so hard to step away, because we know what the others are going through, but you’re right that you have to protect yourself. Funny how things just suddenly click. I guess it really is an “as many times as it takes” kind of thing! Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks lovely. 😊 this episode has just really confirmed how where possible I need to hold my space. I’m rubbish in my real life too and am steadily working at giving less out when I am drained but I can quickly fix being dumped on with a block! Lol. X

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  6. I hear you. There’s one person I know IRL who used me as a free therapist…or a blank wall to just send long long and rambling text msgs to. I finally blocked him two years ago saying I no longer want contact but if my phone accidentally unblocks him, all his messages come through. And I learned that though I have him blocked, he STILL types long rambling messages to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! That’s really bad that despite you telling him you wanted no contact he continued to send stuff. 🤦‍♀️ It’s sad. I get how painful these feelings can be, but surely it’s better to have a ‘friend’ than just a place to dump stuff. Or at least I’d have thought so. X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, it’s much better to have a friend. But for that person, he really didn’t want responses other than those which fit his worldview of “I have it the hardest and no one can possibly have it hard too.” I had to block him because he couldn’t respect that I had my own life and that I’m not a 24/7 walking validation dispenser and I have my own shit too.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I love this, obviously! Weaning out emotional vampires was actually one of the few things I had begun to get sorted before starting therapy and I’m now pretty good at spotting and avoiding them 🙂 And also – “please don’t talk about X when you know I am struggling with X” would be pretty accurate in the example you’re giving too, ugh! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Three cheers for you! I know EXACTLY what you mean, your therapist telling you something a thousand times, nothing changes, and then one day it hits you: oh THAT’S what she meant! Of course!

    I am so, so happy for you that you feel empowered and motivated to establish some boundaries for yourself. You deserve that. You deserve to get something back for the love and care you give out. You deserve some balance. It’s beautiful to see you realizing that and acting on your own behalf (and what a good role model for all of us)!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Years ago, when I was leaving my first husband and trying to stand up for myself, he kept saying what a bitch I was. A good friend of mine thought we should make t-shirts saying, “Better a Bitch Than a Doormat!” lol

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